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Russian WTO Accession: What Has Been Accomplished, What Can Be Expected
Working paper by Tarr, David /World Bank, 2007
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Policy ReseaRch WoRking PaPeR 4428
Russian WTO Accession:
What Has Been Accomplished, What Can be Expected
The World Bank
Development Research Group
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Policy ReseaRch WoRking PaPeR 4428
This paper summarizes the principal reform
commitments that Russia has undertaken as part
of its World Trade Organization (WTO) accession
negotiations, providing detailed assessments in banking,
insurance, and agriculture. The paper assesses the gains
to the Russian economy from these commitments, based
on a summary of several modeling efforts undertaken
by the author and his colleagues. The author compares
This paper—a product of the Trade Team, Development Research Group—is part of a larger effort in the department to
assess the inpact of WTO accession on the development and poverty reduction of developing and transition economies.
Policy Research Working Papers are also posted on the Web at http://econ.worldbank.org. The author may be contacted
Russian commitments with those of other countries that
have recently acceded to the WTO to assess the claim
that the demands on Russia are excessive due to political
considerations. He explains why Russian WTO accession
will result in the elimination of the Jackson-Vanik
Amendment against Russia. Finally, he discusses the
remaining issues in the negotiations and the time frame
for Russian accession as of the fall of 2007.
Russian WTO Accession:
What Has Been Accomplished, What Can be Expected
1 Consultant and former Lead Economist, the World Bank. The views expressed are those
of the author and do not necessarily represent those of the World Bank or its Executive
Russian WTO Accession: What Has Been Accomplished, What Can be Expected
As of May 2007, there are 150 member countries of the World Trade
Organization (WTO). Trade among them represented 97 percent of the world's trade
turnover, including over 94 percent of the foodstuffs. Russia is the largest economy
outside the WTO and—along with Azerbaijan, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Ukraine,
and Uzbekistan of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS)—is among the 29
countries that were attempting to accede to the WTO in early 2007.
The Working Party on accession of the Russian Federation to the WTO was
established June 16, 1993.. The WTO Working Party on Russia’s accession comprises 60
countries (with the addition of two new WTO members, Vietnam and Cambodia), and is
the largest such Working Party in the history of the WTO . By March 2006, the Working
Party had met 30 times. By the spring of 2007, Russia has successfully concluded
bilateral agreements with all but the two new members of its Working Party and
Georgia.2 The focus now is on the multilateral phase of the negotiations, where the
parties indicate a lot of work remains to be done as of the spring of 2007.
In the paper, I address several issues regarding Russian WTO accession. In
section II, I explain what Russia will get from WTO accession. In section III, I
summarize the principal Russian reform commitments at the WTO. In section IV, I
address the question of whether the demands on Russia are excessive due to political
considerations. In section V, I explain why Russian WTO accession will result in the
elimination of the Jackson-Vanik Amendment against Russia. In the final section, I
discuss remaining issues in the negotiations and the time frame for Russian accession.
II. WTO Accession for Russia: A Crucial Historical Opportunity
WTO accession is a process that may be used as an important tool for economic
development. WTO accession will impact on a wide range of policies and institutions,
including tariff policy, customs administration, standards, rights of foreign investors
(especially in services), agricultural policy, intellectual property and possibly government
procurement. It therefore represents a time for evaluation of a very wide range of
regulation and an opportunity to implement important trade, foreign direct investment
2 No significant problems are anticipated that would prevent agreements with Cambodia or Vietnam.
Georgia earlier had agreed to a bilateral agreement on Russian WTO accession but has withdrawn from that
agreement due to a deep dispute discussed below.
and institutional changes. These changes can move the economy toward an open trade
and investment model of economic development and away from an import-substitution
My colleagues and I have undertaken several detailed numerical studies to assess
the consequences of WTO accession in Russia. (See Jensen, Rutherford and Tarr, 2006,
2007; Rutherford, Tarr and Shepotylo, 2005; and Rutherford and Tarr, 2006,
forthcoming.)3 We have assessed the likely impacts on overall income, wages, returns to
capital, poverty, output, exports, imports and employment by sector, and how impacts
will differ across the regions of Russia. The basic macroeconomic impacts are presented
in table 1.What I would like to emphasize is that these studies indicate that Russia will
reap substantial gains from WTO accession, the benefits are widespread and will reduce
poverty, those regions that establish a better investment climate will reap greater gains
from WTO accession, and, crucially, most of the gains are due to Russia’s own reforms.
The reforms in the services sectors, are the most important of Russia’s own reforms.
Although governments typically try to sell WTO accession to the general public
as a process that will yield increased market access for their own exporters, our estimates
are that less than 10 percent of the gains come from improved market access for Russian
exporters. After all, Russia has negotiated most favored nation status or better with all its
significant trading partners. While Russian exporters will be accorded additional legal
benefits in antidumping cases once Russia is a WTO member, and this is the source of
the gains we estimate, many economists are cynical regarding the fairness of antidumping
proceedings. This suggests that we should not expect very significant differences in
determinations against Russian exporters in antidumping cases, and consequently
improved market access in export markets cannot be the source of significant gains to
Russia from WTO accession.4
Given that the benefits to Russia of WTO accession come from its own internal
reforms, some infer from this fact that Russia will gain little from WTO accession—since
Russia could unilaterally implement these reforms. There are several reasons why I take
the opposite view—that the process of WTO accession is a unique historical opportunity
to achieve reform.
3 Versions of all these studies are available at www.worldbank.org/trade/russia-wto. This work follows my
earlier studies examining Russian trade policy. See Tarr (1993, 1994, 1999, 2002) and Michalopoulos and
Tarr (1994, 1996, 1997).
4 In addition, members of the WTO obtain rights in international trade. Members are granted permanent
most-favored nation status to the markets of other member states. So Russia will not have to be concerned
about annual renewals of Most Favored Nation status. Members are also able to use the WTO’s dispute
settlement procedures to protect their trade interests, such as in antidumping cases. Trade disputes among
WTO members are resolved based on WTO legal agreements under which smaller countries have the
potential to win disputes against large countries. All WTO agreements require unanimous consent of all the
members, and this helps provide a voice for the smaller member countries. On the other hand, non-
members will be influenced by the new rules of this dominant organization in international trade, without a
voice in their formation.
The key reason that WTO is important is the political economy dimension. Given
the concentrated benefits to industries that achieve protection, industry groups will
typically lobby for protection. On the other hand, since the benefits to consumers are
diverse and less concentrated, they typically do not lobby against protection, but hope
others with similar interests will lobby on their behalf. This so called “free rider problem”
in political decision-making results in an absence of representation of the views of the
consumer and broader economic interests in political discussions of tariffs. Lobbying and
political economy considerations often allow special interests to strongly influence policy
so that reforms are slow. WTO accession, however, requires across the board reform in
many sectors, and the pressure of a WTO negotiation engages policy makers at the
highest levels of government. Experience has shown that high- level policy-makers, who
have the economy-wide interest in mind, will often intervene to impose reform on slow
moving Ministries. In the case of Russia, the process began to move when Putin made
WTO accession a priority in his first term.
In section III, I summarize many of the key reforms that Russia has made. It is
difficult to argue that Russia would have made reforms as widespread and as deep as it
has without the external pressure of WTO accession. Reforms are accomplished in the
context of WTO accession that would not normally be achieved so quickly. That is, WTO
bindings and external pressure make it easier for a government to adopt a trade policy
designed to promote growth and poverty reduction. Moreover, unlike unilateral reforms,
once a country commits to a reform at the WTO, it is bound by an international
commitment that is difficult to reverse in the future by a less reform mined government. I
conclude that the process of negotiating bilateral market access with the countries on its
WTO Working Party on Accession, has led to a dramatic increase in reforms regarding
the Russian trade and foreign investment regimes, and thereby has helped Russia move
toward an open economy model of economic development.
III. Russian Commitments to Foreign Exporters and Investors5
Non-Agricultural Market Access (NAMA)
Overall Tariffs. Russia agreed to reduce its bound MFN tariffs to about 8 percent
on average. How does this compare to recent levels of tariffs in Russia? Russia’s tariff
schedule contains over 11,000 tariff lines. On about 1,700 of these, the tariff is written as:
“x percent, but not less than y euros.” That is, a specific tariff of y euros per unit applies
if the specific tariff exceeds the ad valorem tariff. This amounts to applying the
maximum of either the specific or ad valorem tariff. Previous calculations of Russia’s
tariffs have either inappropriately ignored the specific tariffs that often apply or have
5 The United States Trade Representative (2006) has released five “Fact Sheets” with details of Russian
commitments as part the US-Russia bilateral protocol. See this source for further details.
been based on a minority of the tariff lines (those available in the printed data of the
Russian Customs Service).6
Recently, however, Oleksandr Shepotylo and I (see, Shepotylo and Tarr,
forthcoming) have obtained data that allowed us to calculate the actual Russian tariffs.
Briefly, our key results are the following. The average tariff in Russia has increased
between 2001 and 2003 from about 11.5 percent to between 13 and 14.5 percent, but it
has held steady in 2004 and 2005. This places Russia’s tariffs at a level slightly higher
than other middle-income countries and considerably higher than the OECD countries.
The tariff structure became much more diverse between 2001 and 2003, but the
dispersion of the tariff moderated in 2004 and 2005. Notably the trade weighted standard
deviation of the tariff approximately doubled from 9.5 percent in 2001 to 18 percent in
2003, but then fell to 15.2 percent by 2005 . “Tariff peaks,” that is, tariff lines with very
high tariffs, are more of a problem in 2005 than in 2001, but less so than in 2003. The
reason for the increase in the tariffs is the specific tariffs, as the ad valorem rates have not
increased. More tariff lines are subject to specific tariffs in 2003-2005 than in 2001, and
the appreciation of the euro, relative to 2001 has increased the ad valorem equivalent of
the specific tariffs. The food sector and light industry are the aggregate sectors with the
highest tariff rates—their tariff rates in 2005 were 23.1 percent and 19.5 percent on a
trade-weighted basis. At the two digit level, motor vehicles, footwear, leather products
and sugar are among the most highly protected.
Our aggregate results are summarized in table 1. For the most recent year,
Russia’s MFN tariffs were about 12.1 percent on a simple average basis or 14 percent on
a trade weighted basis in 2005, where we have taken into account the ad valorem
equivalents of Russia’s specific tariffs. We find that ignoring the specific tariffs results in
a reduction in the calculated average tariff to about 11 percent. Independent of how the
members of the Working Party have calculated Russian tariffs, an average Russian tariff
of the 8 percent implies a decline.
Civil Aircraft and Capital Goods and Equipment. One of the more contentious
areas of tariff negotiation was civil aircraft. Tariffs on wide body aircraft will be reduced
from 20 to 7.5 percent in the four years following accession. Russia has agreed to
substantial tariff reductions in construction, agricultural and scientific equipment, as well
as medical devices. Tariffs in these sectors will average 5 percent.
Some of the most important and internally controversial commitments by Russia
are in the area of services.
Insurance. Russia will significantly increase its commitments to multinational
insurance providers. It will allow 100 percent foreign ownership of non-life insurance
6 The annual report of the Russian Customs Service publishes trade data for about 1600 tariff categories.
There are over 11,000. tariff lines, so the Customs Service aggregates many tariff lines in this publication.
companies upon accession to the WTO. Russian prohibition of foreign participation in
mandatory insurance lines as well as Russian restraints on the number of licenses granted
to foreign life insurance firms will be phased out five years after the date of accession.
Russian had restrained the amount of foreign investment in the sector to be about 15
percent of total investment; but as part of its accession commitments, Russia agreed to
increase this limit to 50 percent.
The Russian banking and insurance sectors see themselves as very vulnerable to
much more powerful and efficient multinational providers of financial services. As such
they were strong opponents of commitments in these sectors. The insurance sector was
reportedly very concerned by the level of commitments made by their government in the
rush to get an agreement prior to the G-8 conference in Saint Petersburg in late spring
2006. The experience of China, where similar fears were expressed by insurance
interests, is instructive and suggests that these fears are exaggerated. Prior to 2001,
China had a very closed insurance market. As part of its WTO accession commitments,
China agreed to gradually remove restrictions on foreign investors in insurance and fully
open its insurance markets by January 2005 (except foreign companies could hold a
maximum of 50 percent in the life insurance market; (see Mattoo (2003, p. 312). As
expected the results have been extremely positive for consumers of insurance services in
China. In addition, wages of skilled workers in the insurance sector have grown, and even
domestic insurance companies have grown, due to better access to foreign capital as
foreign investors, with only one exception, have sought and obtained local partners.7.
7 The key developments in the insurance sector since China’s accession to the WTO in 2001 are: (i)
very strong growth of both domestic Chinese and foreign insurance companies operating in China; (ii)
continued dominance of the market by Chinese companies; (iii) large increase in employment of skilled
workers in the sector; (iv) entry by foreigners through either joint ventures or strategic investment in
Chinese companies; and (v) acquisition of foreign capital by Chinese companies through strategic
partnerships.. Total premiums have more than doubled between 2001 and 2005. During this time, the total
number of insurance companies has increased from 41 to 78, and the number of Chinese companies
increased from 20 to 41. (Facts on the Chinese insurance market for this note are taken from primarily from
Ewing (2006) and supplemented from Datamonitor (2005).)
The largest insurance market in China is life insurance, which captures about two-thirds of the
total insurance premiums in China. The life insurance industry in China has more than doubled from 2001
to 2005, and forecasts are for continued growth in the market that will likely double the size of the market
by 2010. Life insurance premiums increased from 140 billion yuan ($17.5 billion) in 2001 to 365 billion
yuan ($45.4 billion) in 2005. Demand for actuaries, underwriters and managers has soared, e.g., the
industry added 500,000 new agents to bring the total to 1.5 million. The life insurance market remains
dominated by domestic companies, especially three large domestic Chinese companies: The domestic
share of the market was 91 percent in 2005, down from 97.5 percent in 2004. Most of the domestic life
insurance companies have taken on a strategic foreign investor (like HSBC, Zurich Financial Services,
Meiji Life Insurance and the Carlyle Group), as these investors now own minority shares of the companies,
with shares ranging from 1 percent to 25 percent. In 2006 there were 22 foreign life insurance companies
operating in China, but 21 of these were joint ventures with Chinese companies. Thus, there is a very
strong pattern among foreign life insurance companies to either form a joint venture with a Chinese
company or else to purchase a minority strategic interest in a Chinese run company. Only American
International Group sells life insurance in China independently of a Chinese partner.
Banking and Securities. Russia has agreed to bind most existing market access
arrangements and to offer some additional liberalization. These commitments include:
allowing 100 percent foreign ownership of banks and other non-insurance financial
institutions; allowing cross border provision of numerous services including asset
management services, credit cards and other types of payments; allowing foreign
investment companies to own and trade the full range of securities available in Russia,
including state securities and bullion, and to participate in the financing of privatization
of state owned enterprises. In addition, Russian restraints on the share of the sector
captured by foreign banks will increase from about 15 percent of total investment to 50
In banking, opposition galvanized around the branch banking issue. Russia was
willing to allow subsidiaries of international banks. Subsidiaries must be registered as
Russian entities, have their own capital and are subject to supervision by the Russian
central bank. Branches, however, do not have a separate legal status or capital apart from
their foreign parent bank. In general, entry into banking services in a country is easier
when branches are permitted and the U.S. Treasury has been attempting to assure branch
banking is permitted in all countries admitted to the WTO. The Russian central bank
maintained that it could not regulate or supervise branches adequately and that depositors
would therefore be at risk.
The counterargument to the view of the Russian central bank is that theory
suggests and experience has shown that multinational banks have more of their reputation
on the line with a branch, and this will provide greater incentive to avoid default.
Moreover, to the extent that the costs of entry through branches are smaller, the number
of multinationals present will be larger with branches. Then the host country has the
advantage of a larger amount of FDI if it allows branches. This is the greatest advantage
of allowing branch banking, but it was also the greatest concern of the central bank of
Russia--since it implies greater potential adjustment costs for Russian banks.
Of the 150 countries in the World Bank database on "Banking Regulation and
Supervision" for 2003,8 branch banking was prohibited in only 18. The 18 countries
prohibiting branch banking were: Russia, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Belarus and Ukraine
from the CIS plus Bolivia, Botswana, Columbia, Costa Rica, Macedonia, Malaysia,
Mexico, Nigeria, Papa New Guinea, Philippines, Serbia and Montenegro, Trinidad and
Tabago and Zimbabwe. The remaining 132 countries, including all OECD and EU (25)
countries allow branch banking.
It seemed that the Chinese approach offered a reasonable compromise. China
allows branches, but China imposes a large minimum asset requirement on the parent
bank.9 The de facto consequence of this is that China only allows rather large
multinational banks to enter. This both protects incumbent Chinese banks against many
8 See http://www.worldbank.org/research/projects/bank_regulation.htm. Rows 31, 32 and 42
provide data on branch banking.
9 This minimum asset requirement would have to be scheduled in the GATS commitments in order to avoid
disputes with members.
new entrants, but also means that the foreign entrants are likely to be relatively safe and
in need of little supervision or regulation
Banking interests in Russia succeeded in getting Putin himself to say that branch
banking was a deal breaker for Russian WTO accession. Based on its bilateral agreement
with the U.S., Russia succeeded in avoiding a commitment on branch banking, becoming
the only non-LDC acceding country to avoid such a commitment.10 Like many items in
accession negotiations, succeeding in avoiding a commitment is a pyrrhic victory as
Russia will lose the benefits from greater foreign direct investment. Nonetheless,
multinational banks, operating as subsidiaries, have greater market access and national
treatment rights under the bilateral U.S.-Russia agreement and Russia should benefit
from greater involvement of multinational banks in Russia over time .
Telecommunications. As part of its bilateral agreement with the European
Union, Russia agreed to terminate the monopoly of Rostelekom on fixed line long
distance telephone services. In the agreement with the U.S., Russia committed to allow
100 percent foreign owned telecommunications companies to operate in any
telecommunications sector. Russia also agreed to implement the WTO Basic
Telecommunications Reference Paper, which among other reforms will require Russia to
establish an independent regulator and provide for transparency and interconnection
obligations. Presently the Ministry of Communications is responsible for managing any
state assets as well as performing regulatory functions such as interconnection and
licensing. Conflicts of interest are more likely when the same government entity that
manages the state assets is also responsible for the regulatory functions,11 and it is likely
that a commitment to an independent regulator and other key reforms in the sector would
not have been achieved without international pressure
Business Services. Russia will ensure market access and national treatment for a
wide variety of professions, including lawyers, architects, accountants, engineers, health
care professionals, advertising, marketing and management specialists. Foreign
companies will be permitted to operate as 100 percent foreign owned entitites.
Distribution Services. Russia will allow 100 percent foreign owned companies
to engage in wholesale, retail and franchise sectors, as well as express delivery services
upon accession to the WTO. This includes distribution of pharmaceuticals, with minimal
Agricultural issues have been among the most contentious in Russia’s WTO
accession negotiations. The key unresolved issue is agricultural subsidies. Russia,
10 Russia agrees to reopen discussions on this issue upon consideration of membership in the OECD.
11 As a result of proceedings in a Swiss arbitration court, questions have arisen of indirect financial links
between the Russian Minister of Communications and Megafon, the country’s third largest mobile
telephone provider. No links have been proven, however. See Oleg Dorman, “Communication Minister
Reiman Admits his Connection to Megafon,” Moscow News, April 5, 2007.
however, has made considerable commitments in market access as well as sanitary and
phyto-sanitary negotiations. For beef, pork and poultry exports, the disputes with the U.S.
were among the most significant. The bilateral agreement with the U.S. details the
Market Access. Russia agreed to bind its tariffs on all agricultural products. It
many cases this entailed tariff cuts from present levels. See U.S. Trade Representative
(2006) for details.
Non-Tariff Barriers. Regarding poultry and pork products, instead of joint
inspection of facilities, Russia agrees to allow the U.S. Department of Agriculture-Food
Safety and Inspection Service to inspect and certify new facilities or facilities that need to
remedy a deficiency. Regarding beef, Russia and the U.S. agree to timely joint
inspections of all facilities that will export to the Russia. Once a joint inspection has been
completed, the inspection process applying to poultry and pork exporters will apply.
Regarding trichinae in pork, Russia will allow freezing as mitigation of the risk on
sales destined to Russian consumers. Previously, Russia only allowed this for
intermediate pork sales. The Russian regulatory regime in modern biotechnology
products has been unpredictable. For example product registrations and approvals in the
area of feeds were halted in 2004 when work began on a new permanent regulatory
system. Russia also agreed to maintain an interim approval and registration system for
modern biotechnology products (until a permanent one can be established) that is science
based, transparent and consistent with the WTO Agreement.
IV. Are there Excessive Demands on Russia due to Political Considerations
The allegation that demands on Russia are either political or excessive by the
standards of other countries that have acceded to the WTO have been repeated frequently
and have been come to be believed by many observers. I believe, however, that the
evidence contradicts this allegation. Aside from a couple of well publicized cases where
unusual demands were placed on Russia,12 the demands placed are Russia are typical of
the WTO accession process in the past ten years. The process of acceding to the WTO
since 1998 is a difficult one in which all acceding countries have been asked to take on
very significant commitments to foreign exporters and investors. In comparison with the
commitments of these countries, the commitments that are reported for Russia do not
Goods. In goods, Russia has agreed to bind its tariffs at an average tariff level of
8 percent, after an adjustment period (USTR, 2006). This is a slightly higher average
bound tariff on goods than most countries that have acceded to the WTO since 1998 (see
WTO, 2005). The average tariffs for other acceding countries are: Saudi Arabia, 10.5
percent; Former Yugoslavian Republic of Macedonia, 6.2 percent; Armenia, 7.5 percent;
12 One unusual demand on Russia was the pressure on Russia to unify its domestic and export price of
natural gas. This demand, which occupied negotiators for considerable time and was eventually dropped by
the European Union, would have imposed a very high cost on Russia (see Tarr and Thompson, 2005).
Chinese Taipei, 4.8 percent; China, 9.1 percent; Moldova, 6.0 percent; Croatia, 5.5
percent; Oman, 11.6 percent; Albania, 6.6 percent; Georgia, 6.5 percent; Jordan, 15.2
percent; Estonia, 7.3 percent; Latvia, 9.4 percent; Kyrgyz Republic, 6.7 percent.13 Thus,
by the standards of countries that have acceded to the WTO in the last eight years that are
not “Least Developing Countries,” Russia appears to have acceded with bound tariffs
slightly higher than average, i.e., no excessive demands from the Working Party here.
Services. In the area of services, no simple measure like an average tariff is
available. But an examination of the table of commitments of the countries that have
acceded to the WTO since 1998 (WTO, 2005, table 5) shows that that all of them have
assumed a rather high and comprehensive level of commitments, in terms of sectors
included. On a qualitative basis, the more detailed discussion above on banking and
insurance does not suggest an above average level of commitments in these important
sectors. On the contrary, Russia has been able to avoid a commitment to branches of
banks, unlike almost all of these countries.
Agriculture. Although trade-distorting subsidies (subsidies that are dependent on
exports or production) are constrained by the WTO, the WTO allows without any
constraints publicly funded subsidies to agriculture that are not trade-distorting. These
types of subsidies are known as “Green Box” subsidies. Green Box subsidies include a
wide range of publicly funded measures including research and development, pest
control, general and specialist training, extension and advisory services, inspection
services for health and sanitary reasons, marketing and promotion services, infrastructure
services, including electricity, roads and environmental expenditures, targeted support to
low income population through food stamps or subsidized prices, direct payments to
producers to support income provided it has minimal trade-distorting features , crop
insurance subsidies for natural disasters, adjustment assistance through producer
retirement programs and indirect income support not related to prices. The world-wide
trend is to move agricultural support away from trade-distorting subsidies toward Green
Box measures. In part, this is because it is generally recognized that trade-distorting
subsidies are a highly inefficient way of helping agricultural producers compared with
Green Box measures. And Green Box measures are more effective at creating a
competitive agricultural sector in the long run.
Nonetheless, incumbent members of the WTO, like the European Union, Canada,
the United States and Norway, have a base period for trade-distorting agricultural
subsidies that allows considerable trade-distorting subsidies. The precedent among
acceding countries, however, is that the three year period prior to accession forms the
base period for permitted trade-distorting subsidies, and trade-distorting subsidies are
negotiated down from that base. Although it is good for the Russian economy, the
problem for Russian WTO accession negotiators is that in recent years Russia has had a
rather low level of trade-distorting agricultural subsidies; but Russia would like to retain
the right to U.S. trade-distorting subsidies in agriculture in the future. This issue was not
resolved during the bilateral phase of the negotiations and will be one of the most
13 Two of the “Least Developed Nations” acceded with relatively high bound tariffs: Cambodia, 17.7
percent; and Nepal, 23.7 percent. But the WTO accords a preferential status to developing countries.
contentious in the multilateral phase. Other countries, like Kazakhstan, who have a
similar negotiating position, are waiting to see if Russia is successful in its negotiations.
If Russia is able to obtain the right to provide trade-distorting subsidies in agriculture on
a new basis among acceding countries, these other countries will demand parallel
treatment. In any event, it is difficult to argue that Russia is being treated more harshly
than other countries that have acceded, since it is asking for a departure from precedent.
V. Russian WTO Accession and the Jackson-Vanik Amendment
The Jackson-Vanik Amendment of the U.S. requires an annual review of Russian
emigration policies in order for the U.S. to grant Most Favored Nation (MFN) status to
Russia (and other former communist countries). This is a significant irritant to Russia,
but the U.S. does not presently have any commercial pressure on it to remove Jackson-
Vanik. Once Russia becomes a WTO member, however, there will be commercial
pressure on the U.S. from its own exporters and investors to remove Jackson-Vanik.
Consequently, the U.S. will almost certainly remove Jackson-Vanik after Russian WTO
The WTO requires that permanent MFN status be granted to all members. Thus,
the provisions of Jackson-Vanik are inconsistent with MFN treatment required by the
WTO. The U.S. has two options once Russia becomes a member of the WTO: (1)
eliminate Jackson-Vanik; or (2) invoke the "non-application principle" of the WTO. For
newly acceding countries, a member of the WTO can opt out of WTO commitments with
respect to the newly acceding country if it invokes the “non-application” principle. If the
U.S. were to invoke the non-application principle against Russia, it means that the U.S.
would refuse to honor its WTO obligations to Russia. But non-application is reciprocal.
So the U.S. would not have any assurance that its exporters or investors would be treated
in Russia according to Russia's WTO commitments.
In practice, the U.S. has dropped Jackson-Vanik on all countries that have
acceded to the WTO with one exception. In the cases of Albania, Bulgaria Cambodia,
Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, Jackson-Vanik was repealed prior to accession. In the
cases of Mongolia, Armenia, Georgia, Kyrgyzstan it was repealed after accession, so the
"non-application" principle was invoked, but eventually removed within a year or two.
(In the case of Georgia, non-application was never invoked since Jackson-Vanik was
removed soon enough after accession.) Only in the case of Moldova does Jackson-Vanik
still apply to a country that acceded to the WTO.
Former U.S. Trade Representative Rob Portman testified before Congress in 2006
that the U.S. will have to lift Jackson-Vanik against Russia, Ukraine and Kazakhstan in
order for the U.S. exporters and investors to gain the advantages of the commitments
these countries are making at the WTO. In the case of Ukraine, Jackson-Vanik was
removed in 2006.
VI. Remaining Issues
Often the most difficult issues remain at the end of the accession negotiations.
Although Russia has resolved some of the most contentious, (such as gas pricing and
branch banking where Russia achieved its objectives in the negotiations) several difficult
Georgia--The Customs Posts Issue with Russia
Abkhazia and South Ossetia are two breakaway regions of Georgia that have borders
with Russia. Georgia insists that Russia close down two checkpoints between these
regions and Russia, and that Russia establish legal customs posts. Georgia believes that a
great deal of smuggling is coming from the breakaway regions through the illegal
checkpoints and this is helping the breakaway regions to survive.
Russia has banned the import of wines from Georgia, which appears to many Georgian
officials as retaliation for the pressure Georgia had placed on Russia in the WTO
accession negotiations. Georgia, which has signed its bilateral agreement on Russian
WTO Accession in 2004, then withdrew its support for Russia’s WTO accession.
Moreover, Georgia has objected to the agenda of the multilateral meetings and thereby
blocked any meetings of the Working Party on Russian WTO accession. It is very
difficult for Russia to resolve the multilateral issues without multilateral meetings.
Article XII of the WTO Articles on Accession states that
“Decisions on accession shall be taken by the Ministerial Conference. The Ministerial Conference
shall approve the agreement on the terms of accession by a two-thirds majority of the Members of the
Based on the two-thirds majority rule on accession in Article XII, Russia has apparently
investigated whether it can by-pass Georgia based on this two-thirds majority rule
pertaining to accessions. As a practical matter, the two-thirds majority rule is an illusion
and all accession decisions are taken by consensus (by unanimity) as are all other
decisions of the WTO (except dispute settlement). The Working Party would have to
write a final report on Russia’s WTO accession, without which the matter of Russia’s
WTO accession will never come to a vote before the WTO Ministerial Meeting. Just as
Georgia has been able to block the Working Party from meeting, Georgia will be able to
block the report from going to the Ministerial. So again, consensus is required and
Georgia has a blocking vote. This implies that sooner or later Russia will have to
negotiate seriously with Georgia, something that Georgian officials have complained has
not happened in 2007.
I have discussed this issue above so only briefly discuss it here. Russia failed in
the bilateral discussions to achieve its objective of defining 1992-1994 as the base period
for trade-distorting agricultural subsidies. Russia now hopes that it will be able to
negotiate a dollar amount that it would be allowed to subsidize. This is likely to be a very
difficult negotiation as there are other countries, like Kazakhstan and Ukraine, who
would like similar departures from precedent. If the Working Party allows Russia a larger
trade-distorting subsidy amount, it will have a more difficult time negotiating previous
limits with subsequent applicants for WTO membership. Australia and New Zealand are
likely to resist a change in precedent that would allow an increase in the trade-distorting
In general, the Working Party believes that Russian laws on intellectual property
are consistent with international obligations. The problem is in enforcement. In February,
U.S. private industry sources complained that Russia was not cracking down on pirated
copies of goods, including software, music, films and pharmaceuticals. As part of its
bilateral agreement with the U.S., Russia signed a “side letter” in which it agreed to take
several steps to strengthen enforcement of its intellectual property regime. Private U.S.
industry sources also complain about the failure of Russia to close websites, like
allofmp3.com, that sell material that is protected by copyright, and more generally that
Russia is not complying with the terms of its side-letter with the U.S. on intellectual
Issues with the European Union
There are several trade issues between the EU and Russia in the spring of 2007.
Although there have been some press reports that allege that the EU is considering
blocking Russian WTO accession due to these problems, 14 officially EU officials have
not changed their support for Russian WTO accession.
Estonia relocated a Soviet war memorial in its capital of Tallinn. This led to
demonstrations at the Estonian embassy in Moscow, and a complaint from NATO that
Russia did not protect Estonian embassy staff. This was complemented by a cut off by
Russia of oil and coal exports to Estonia. Other issues are the Russian ban on all meat
imports from Poland. The EU regards the penalty as disproportionate to the offense of
some falsified documents on selected shipments of meat exports from Poland. The EU is
also concerned about proposed export taxes on wood exports from Russia and dual
pricing for international and domestic rail cargo. On the plus side, one of the more
contentious issues, the timing of the elimination of overflight fees for aircraft over
Russian skies has been resolved in 2007.
When Will Russia Achieve Membership?
The multilateral talks are focused on the details of how and when Russia will take
on the multilateral obligations of a WTO member. Many of the most difficult issues
remain to the end of the process and thus some of the most difficult compromises are
necessary. Some observers are suggesting that more isolationist interests in Russia have
gained more influence and thus Russia is having second thoughts about an open economy
14 For further details see “EU Threatens Russian Trade Bar,” May 5, 2007. Available at:
model of economic development. If correct, this would make it very difficult then to
come to a final agreement.
Gemain Gref, the Russian minister of economic development and trade, has
forecast that Russia should be able to accede to the WTO by the end of 2007. On the
other hand, the disputes with the EU have reportedly led some EU officials to express
reservations about EU support for Russian unless the problems are resolved. And on
February 14, 2007, U.S. Trade Representative Susan Schwab told the Senate Finance
Committee that "Russia is not moving ahead with the kind of WTO commitments that it
would need, at this point, to become a full-fledged member of the WTO.” Regarding the
multilateral talks she added they "are not proceeding as well or as quickly as I think
Russia had hoped."
The difficulty of the issues above, and the stiffening of political will on many
sides (as elaborated by Aslund 2007), suggests that 2007 is overly optimistic for Russian
accession. It is difficult to believe, however, that a country as important as Russia will not
become a member of the WTO. I am optimistic, therefore, that the West and Russia will
eventually come to an agreement. And once Russia has an agreement with the West,
Russia and Georgia will also resolve their dispute.
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Table 1: Impact of WTO Accession on Economy-Wide Variables in Russia: Policy Results
and Decomposition of Effects (results are percentage change from initial equilibrium)
(1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (6) (7) (8)
Welfare (EV as % of consumption) 7.2 1.3 0.6 5.2 23.6 4.1 7.7 5.9
Welfare (EV as % of GDP) 3.3 0.6 0.3 2.4 11.0 1.9 3.6 2.8
Tariff revenue (% of GDP) 1.4 0.9 0.8 1.4 1.4 1.0 0.8 0.9 0.8
Tariff revenue (% change) -33.4 -38.4 8.4 10.6 -23.3 -35.4 -33.2 -35.8
Real exchange rate (% change) 2.6 2.0 -0.5 1.1 4.8 1.8 2.7 3.0
Aggregate exports (% change) 13.2 7.9 1.5 3.5 24.3 10.8 13.5 9.5
Returns to mobile factors
Unskilled Labor (% change) 2.5 0.4 0.1 1.9 13.2 1.0 2.7 1.9
Skilled Labor (% change) 4.7 1.5 0.6 2.5 17.6 2.6 4.9 3.4
Capital (% change) 4.9 2.0 0.7 3.1 19.5 3.6 4.9 4.3
Unskilled labor (% of non-sector
specific workers who change jobs) 2.6 1.1 0.5 1.6 4.4 1.7 2.6 0.0
Skilled labor (% of non-sector
specific workers who change jobs) 2.1 0.4 0.4 1.5 2.5 1.0 2.2 0.0
Capital 0.6 0.4 0.4 0.2 0.1 0.6 0.6 0.4
Source: Jensen, Rutherford and Tarr, Review of Development Economics, August 2007..
Table 2 MFN Tariff rates of the Russian Federation (a)
Mean Standard Deviation
Year Tariff Observations
Simple Trade weighted Simple
Actual MFN tariff
rate 11.7 11.4 10.8 9.5 0 518 201
Ad valorem rate
10.9 10.5 6.0 6.5 0 100
Actual MFN tariff
rate 12.2 13.3 13.7 14.9 0 483 2002
Ad valorem rate
10.8 11.2 6.0 8.0 0 100
Actual MFN tariff
rate 12.8 14.3 18.7 18.0 0 12702003
Ad valorem rate
10.9 10.3 6.9 6.8 0 100
Actual MFN tariff
rate 12.4 14.1 13.3 17.0 0 293 2004
Ad valorem rate
10.9 11.1 6.9 7.3 0 100
Actual MFN tariff
rate 12.1 14.0 12.7 15.2 0 470 2005
Ad valorem rate
10.8 11.2 7.0 7.8 0 100
Notes: (a) Table 1 presents summary statistics at the ten digit level
(b) The ad valorem rate only calculations ignore specific tariffs, i.e, assume that specific
tariffs are zero.
Source: Shepotylo and Tarr (forthcoming).